What I've learnt is: when you talk about your mother you use はは、 when you talk about someone else's mother you use おかあさん。

But what happens when you talk to your mother? How should you address her?

In anime they usually say おかあさん, but isn't it too formal?

2 Answers 2


If you want to talk to your mother in Japanese, call her おかあさん. This is like calling your mother "mother". Small kids sometimes call their mother ママ ("mommy"), but since you're probably older than 10, you should stick to おかあさん. (And no, it's not too formal. Anime Japanese is not really known for being too formal...)

There are cutefied or colloquial variants on おかあさん, like おかあちゃん, かあちゃん, かあさん.

By the way, it's also possible to talk about your own mother using おかあさん, as in うちのお母さんが…

Just to be clear, 母 is not a form of address, but expresses the biological relationship "mother". Talking to your mother, you wouldn't address her with 母. You can use 母 in principle for talking about other mothers (太郎君の母を見ました), but this sound like "I saw Taro's biological mother".

In the olden days, 母上 was (and in Samurai circles still is) a formal way of addressing (and talking about) your own mother.

  • I feel that although it is strange to address your own mother with 「母」 (when you are talking to her), it is OK to talk about her with 「母」, e.g. 「元気でと何度も何度も繰り返す母」 from this song.
    – null
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 9:51
  • Not only is it OK, it is the "proper" humble way to refer to your mother when speaking to people outside of your family. Of course, people use other variants all the time for this, so I think it's more of a prescriptive rule than anything. Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 11:04

How children address their mothers totally depends on the family.

Common ones are:

おかあさん、ママ、おふくろ、おかあちゃん、かあちゃん, etc.

It is not formal at all to use おかあさん. In fact, it is so common that I had to place it at the top of the list above.

Uncommon ones include: [母上]{ははうえ}、お[母様]{かあさま}, etc.

In real life, I have only met one person who addressed her parents 母上 and [父上]{ちちうえ}, respectively. She was from an very old-fashioned and strict family with a lawyer father.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm curious about おふくろ. Is it related to ふく 'clothes'?
    – Clover
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 9:25
  • 1
    Maybe you can make it into another question :) Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:10
  • 1
    Probably not that important, but do you mean a lawyer?
    – dainichi
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 4:39
  • @Clover It's just 袋 'bag' with the prefix お. It's mainly masculine these days, but when the Portuguese came to Japan they made a dictionary marking it as a feminine word for mother.
    – Angelos
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 17:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .